Why is Queens the Hotspot of Hotspots in the Nation’s Coronavirus Crisis?

According to reports, the death toll from coronavirus-related illness in the United States, according to some sources, reached 6,000 on Thursday. The country remains in lockdown and the economy is in freefall after the White House warned this week that between 100,000 to 200,000 people will die in the United States over the next few months from the Wuhan flu.

The country’s main hotspot remains New York City. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is holding daily press briefings to riff about how we are “all in this together,” whine about the dearth of critical supplies his administration failed to secure as the crisis unfolded overseas, and wisecrack with his brother. Nearly half of all U.S. fatalities have occurred in New York state, according to tracking reports.

Cuomo insists that New York is the “tip of the spear” of COVID-19 cases; it’s only a matter of time, Cuomo predicts, before the rest of the country is under siege by the lethal virus.

But New York is not the tip of the spear—it is the spear.

As I detailed here, Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio failed to prepare for the inevitable spread of coronavirus until it was too late. There were warning signs dating back to January that the disease would sweep through certain areas of the city, endangering the lives of health care workers, state residents and people across the country.

A January 27 article in the New York Times sounded an early alarm. “With isolated cases of the dangerous new coronavirus cropping up in a number of states, public health officials say it is only a matter of time before the virus appears in New York City,” Joseph Goldstein and Jeffrey Singer reported.

Goldstein and Singer described how city residents returning from Wuhan—the source of the outbreak—were worried they had been infected with the contagious disease before coming back to the states. “In Queens, some who recently returned from China have even self-quarantined. But officials have urged calm,” they wrote.

Calm. New York City officials urged calm. (As late as March 11, DeBlasio was encouraging people to go out to eat and downplayed the risk to the general public.)

It’s hard to underestimate how dangerous and deadly that approach has been. With a population of about 2.3 million people, the borough of Queens now represents nearly 10 percent of the total number of coronavirus-related fatalities in the entire country. In most neighborhoods in Queens, at least 50 percent of COVID-19 tests came back positive; several ZIP codes in the borough have positive results upwards of 60 percent.

One area particularly hard hit is Elmhurst, Queens and surrounding neighborhoods. (One, ironically, is named Corona). It is home to one of New York City’s three Chinatowns; nearly half of its residents are Asian. It also is home to Elmhurst Hospital Center, which has been besieged by coronavirus sufferers and victims. (This video shows how the facility is located in a neighborhood populated with Chinese retailers and signs in Chinese.)

A March 25 article in the Times described the harrowing conditions inside and outside of the facility; 13 people died in one day at Elmhurst, although the reporters did not confirm each victim succumbed to COVID-19.

“Elmhurst, a 545-bed public hospital in Queens, has begun transferring patients not suffering from coronavirus to other hospitals as it moves toward becoming dedicated entirely to the outbreak,” the Times reported. “Doctors and nurses have struggled to make do with a few dozen ventilators. Calls over a loudspeaker of ‘Team 700,’ the code for when a patient is on the verge of death, come several times a shift. Some have died inside the emergency room while waiting for a bed.”

Videos and photos of overwhelmed health care workers from Elmhurst flooded social media. A truck parked outside the hospital awaited dead bodies. People were lined up at dawn for testing.

President Trump referred to Elmhurst Hospital last week in an emotional statement during a daily press briefing. “Body bags all over, in hallways. I’ve been watching them bring in trailer trucks, freezer trucks, they’re freezer trucks, because they can’t handle the bodies, there are so many of them,” Trump said.  “This is essentially in my community, in Queens, Queens, New York. I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before.”

So, aside from a high population of Asians, some of whom had traveled back to Queens after visiting parts of China, including Wuhan, what else is driving the high infection and death rates there?

John Liu, the state senator who represents the area, explained that his district is densely populated “with multiple generations living under one roof, or a group of single workers living together.” Liu said the fact that so many people “live on top of each other” makes it nearly impossible to abide by CDC-mandated social distancing guidelines.

Oddly, the news media is incurious as to why Queens—and the Elmhurst area in particular—is overrun with coronavirus activity. New York City officials are just as sly. The city’s health department releases daily reports that include figures for both U.S. citizens and “foreign residents treated in NYC facilities.”

But city officials refuse to indicate whether a victim is an American citizen or someone who traveled here from an infected region such as China and spread the virus throughout an overcrowded city that failed to institute any precautions until just a few weeks ago.

That’s why it is so galling to hear Cuomo lecture America each day. While failing to offer an honest explanation about how this disease continues to consume New York City, Cuomo nonetheless is demanding the rest of the country surrender to tyrannical and punitive government “cures” to do what he did not. But Topeka and Des Moines and Scottsdale aren’t Queens or the Bronx: people in flyover country, a target of scorn for Big Apple elites, nonetheless, are paying the price.

Further, as the economy crashes, millions lose their jobs, and politicians on both sides imprison citizens in their own homes to “stop the spread,” Cuomo and De Blasio need to give specific answers about how coronavirus took hold and why it continues to spread. The truth might not be comfortable—then again, neither is living in a locked-down country separated from family and friends because a few politically correct officeholders dropped the ball and now want to shift blame.

About Julie Kelly

Julie Kelly is a political commentator and senior contributor to American Greatness. She is the author of Disloyal Opposition: How the NeverTrump Right Tried―And Failed―To Take Down the President Her past work can be found at The Federalist and National Review. She also has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Hill, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, and Genetic Literacy Project. After college graduation, she served as a policy and communications consultant for several Republican candidates and elected officials in suburban Chicago. She also volunteered for her local GOP organization. After staying home for more than 10 years to raise her two daughters, Julie began teaching cooking classes out of her home. She then started writing about food policy, agriculture, and biotechnology, as well as climate change and other scientific issues. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1990 with a degree in communications and minor degrees in political science and journalism. Julie lives in suburban Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and (unfortunately) three dogs.

Photo: John Lamparski/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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